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Posted by Daniel Johnson on April 22, 2003 03:17:34 UTC

No, I'm not saying that altazimuth mounts are best. Fork-mounted scopes can be either polar or altazimuth. Does the fork point up (altaz) or at the pole (polar)? Yes, polar mounts are the way to go for long-exposure astrophotography. The LXD55 series has one such polar mount, German Equatorial. The fork mount of the ETX can be either altazimuth or polar, depending on whether it is on a polar wedge. But the ETX just doesn't have the smooth adjustability that one needs for small corrections in guiding long exposures. It's not mechanically up to the task. It's a mount made for visual use, regardless whether it is in altaz or polar mode. The LXD55 German Equatorial--according to the S&T review--can serve, at least for beginning astrophotography. But you'll need to add a guide scope of some sort.
Digital cameras are good for short exposures. Unlike dedicated CCD cameras for astrophotography, the digital cameras don't have a built-in cooler for the chip. Exposures of more than a second or two become noisy, ugly, yeccch. That is, unless you're in subfreezing weather--then you don't need a cooler, and digital cameras are useful. Still, their main use is in snapshots of planets. Web cams can do the same thing. I use a Nikon Coolpix 995. A year or two ago it was probably the best on the market for digital astrophotos. There may be better ones now. It will take exposures of 8 seconds, and can be rigged easily enough to go for a minute.
It's late. I'll try to answer more tomorrow.

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